Arizona Gov.Â Jan BrewerÂ vetoed a religious freedom bill Wednesday under threat of a national boycott by foes of the measure who said it would promote discrimination against gays.
â€œI sincerely believe Senate Bill 1062 has potential to create more problems than it purports to solve,â€ Ms. Brewer said at a brief press conference. â€œIt could divide Arizona in ways that we could not even imagine and no one would ever want. Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is nondiscrimination.â€
The Republican governor said she met with lawmakers, citizens and attorneys before making the decision. She had until Saturday to sign or veto the bill, or allow it to become law without her signature.
Doug Napier, senior counsel for the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom in Scottsdale, said the veto represented a defeat for freedom and victory for fear and a national campaign that the billâ€™s proponents said had wildly distorted the bill.
â€œFreedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed. Todayâ€™s veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona,â€Â Mr. NapierÂ said in a statement.
Rea Carey, executive director of theÂ National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, cheered the governorâ€™s decision. She said the legislation would have been â€œbad for Arizona people and the Arizona economy.â€
â€œShe has stopped a bill that both cynically uses religion as a smokescreen to justify discrimination and insults people of faith who feel that discrimination is morally wrong,â€Â Ms. CareyÂ said in a statement. â€œThis decision sends a clear message that extremism is totally unacceptable to people of all political persuasions.â€
The governorâ€™s veto also was praised by Arizonaâ€™s two Republican U.S. senators,Â John McCainÂ andÂ Jeff Flake. â€œI hope that we can now move on from this controversy and assure the American people that everyone is welcome to live, work and enjoy our beautiful state of Arizona,â€Â Mr. McCainÂ said.
â€œThe religious beliefs of all Arizonans must be respected, and this bill did nothing more than affirm that,â€Â Ms. HerrodÂ said.
Ms. Brewer defended her record on religious liberty. â€œI have protected religious freedoms when there is a specific and present concern that exists in our state, and I have the record to prove it,â€ she said.
ReligiousÂ businessÂ owners, such as bakeries and photographers, who decline to participate in same-sex weddings have been sued successfully in several states, but she noted that Arizona is not among them.
â€œSenate Bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,â€ said Ms. Brewer. â€œI have not heard one example in Arizona where a business ownerâ€™s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.â€
The Republican governor announced her decision amid a national outcry against Senate Bill 1062, led by gay-rightsÂ leadersÂ who said the bill essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals.
The uproar became so intense that even some Arizona Republicans, including three legislators who voted for the bill, urged Ms. Brewer to veto the legislation in order to avoid an economic boycott against the state.
Companies such as Apple andÂ American AirlinesÂ came out against the bill, and the Arizona Super Bowl Committee urged a veto, arguing that the legislation would â€œdeal a significant blowâ€ to the Arizona economy and would threaten to pull the Super Bowl from the state.
Supporters of the bill attempted to counter the negative blitz by insisting that the measure would not allow discrimination but would help religious business owners avoid participating in ceremonies that offend their faith, namely same-sex weddings.
The Alliance Defending Freedom released a letter Wednesday from 11 legal scholars that said the bill â€œhas been egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics.â€
â€œSome of us are Republicans; some of us are Democrats. Some of us are religious; some of us are not. Some of us oppose same-sex marriage; some of us support it,â€ said the letter. â€œBut all of us believe that many criticisms of the Arizona bill are deeply misleading.â€
Cato Institute senior fellowÂ Ilya Shapiro, who supports same-sex marriage, said the measure wasnâ€™t radical, given that it brings state law into line with the 1993 federal law.
â€œThis is not the case like the Jim Crow South where the state was involved in enforcing segregation laws and would fineÂ businessesÂ that did not segregate,â€ saidÂ Mr. Shapiro. â€œHere, if one wedding photographer or baker doesnâ€™t serve you, there are lots of alternatives. Itâ€™s a much different scenario.â€
He said the real issue is whether to allow freedom of association. Any law that requires a Christian baker to prepare a cake for a same-sex wedding also can demand that a gay baker do the same for religious conservatives, he noted.
â€œWhy would a gay couple want to have their wedding cake made by someone who doesnâ€™t like them?â€Â Mr. ShapiroÂ said.
Fair or not, the successful uproar over the Arizona bill, and its veto by a Republican governor, is likely to chill efforts in other states to follow suit.
About a dozen states are considering similar measures to protect religious freedoms in the wake of court decisions against companies in the wedding industry, such as photographers and bakers.
So far, courts have ruled against the small-business owners on anti-discrimination grounds. A New Mexico Supreme Court decision against Elane Photography, whose owner refused to shoot photos at a same-sex wedding, could be the first to go before the Supreme Court.